Hello, all. I wanted to write about the Black Panthers also known as BPP or Black Panther Party because throughout my life, I have heard conflicting information about them. I just wanted to learn the TRUTH for myself, and boy do they have an interesting story! I was pleased to learn that most of what I’ve heard was misinformation and straight out LIES!!
We have too much information at our fingertips today to just believe a thing because many say it is true. We can search for truth ourselves without outside help/influences. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd because the majority is always wrong. No idea where mob mentality comes from, but you’ll never catch me in a mob.
The Black Panthers: Back Story
In October of 1966, in Oakland California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The Panthers practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against the U.S. government, and fought to establish revolutionary socialism through mass organizing and community based programs. The party was one of the first organizations in U.S. history to militantly struggle for ethnic minority and working class emancipation — a party whose agenda was the revolutionary establishment of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines.
Black Panther Theory: The practices of the late Malcolm X were deeply rooted in the theoretical foundations of the Black Panther Party. Malcolm had represented both a militant revolutionary, with the dignity and self-respect to stand up and fight to win equality for all oppressed minorities; while also being an outstanding role model, someone who sought to bring about positive social services; something the Black Panthers would take to new heights.
The Panthers followed Malcolm’s belief of international working class unity across the spectrum of color and gender, and thus united with various minority and white revolutionary groups. From the tenets of Maoism they set the role of their Party as the vanguard of the revolution and worked to establish a united front, while from Marxism they addressed the capitalist economic system, embraced the theory of dialectical materialism, and represented the need for all workers to forcefully take over the means of production.
Original six Black Panthers (November, 1966) Top left to right: Elbert “Big Man” Howard; Huey P. Newton (Defense Minister), Sherman Forte, Bobby Seale (Chairman). Bottom: Reggie Forte and Little Bobby Hutton (Treasurer).
On April 25, 1967 the first issue of The Black Panther, the party’s official news organ, goes into distribution.
In the following month, the party marches on the California state capital fully armed, in protest of the state’s attempt to outlaw carrying loaded weapons in public. Bobby Seale reads a statement of protest; police respond by immediately arresting him and all 30 armed Panthers. This act of political repression ignites resistance movement in the United States; soon initiating minority workers to take up arms and form new Panther chapters outside the state.
I find it quite interesting that a country that boasts so much progression and inclusion still practice the same discriminatory and racially based practices of the 60’s. Blacks and other minority groups in the United States still face these same atrocities and infringements on their rights that are afforded every other American, according to The Constitution of The United States.
The Black Panthers have been labeled as racist for as long as I can remember though, they fought for ALL groups mistreated and/or oppressed by the United States government. There were also members of different races and cultures among the Panthers. Can Any racist group run by whites say the same? I doubt it. I’ve never heard of blacks or any other culture being a part or members of the KKK.
How the tables have turned. What am I referring to? Minority groups have been protesting and marching for Civil/Human rights and against police brutality for several decades and now we see many others doing the same, because that brutality has reached his-her neighborhood. Injustice anywhere, is a threat to Justice everywhere. Just because it is not or has not happened to you doesn’t mean it won’t! We live in a world that goes around in a circle, so things happening to your neighbor, will soon be happening to you.
In October 1967, defense minister of the Panthers, Huey Newton, was arrested by police for killing an Oakland cop. This caused Panther Eldridge Cleaver to start the”Free Huey” movement a struggle the Panthers would devote a great deal of their attention to in the coming years, while the party spreads its roots further into the political spectrum, forming coalitions with various revolutionary parties.
By 1968, the Panthers had appointed a new Prime Minister, Stokely Carmichael. The Panthers had been having talks about allowing whites into the movement, but Stokely was dead set against it. He believed that not only did whites not understand the black struggle, but that they would also undermine the entire movement. Needless to say, whites did become participating activists within the movement. Also, though many may not know, whites formed their own party in solidarity with the Black Panthers, calling themselves the White Panthers.
White Panthers pictured here in front of 1520 Hill Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Standing in solidarity at a Panthers march.
The FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, begins a program called COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) to break up the spreading unity of revolutionary groups that had begun solidifying through the work and examaple of the Panthers — the Peace and Freedom Party, Brown Berets, Students for a Democratic Society, the SNCC, SCLC, Poor People’s March, Cesar Chavez and others in the farm labor movement, the American Indian Movement, Young Puerto Rican Brothers, the Young Lords and many others. To destroy the party, the FBI begins with a program of surgical assassinations — killing leading members of the party who they know cannot be otherwise subverted. Following these mass killings would be a series of arrests, followed by a program of psychological warfare, designed to split the party both politically and morally through the use of espionage, provocatures, and chemical warfare. Sounds familiar. The government never has to change its tactics when not enough people care.
On April 6, 1968, in West Oakland, Bobby Hutton, 17 years old, is shot dead by Oakland police. In a 90 minute gun battle, an unarmed Bobby Hutton is shot ten times dead, after his house is set ablaze and he is forced to run out into a fire of bullets. Just two days earlier, Martin Luther King is assasinated, after he had begun rethinking his own doctrines of non-violence, and started to build ties with radical unions. Two months later on the day of Bobby’s death, Robert Kennedy, widely recognised in the minority commmunity as one of the only politicians in the US “sympathetic” to the civil rights movement, is also assasinated.
In January, 1969, The first Panther’s Free Breakfast for School Children Program is initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. By the end of the year, the Panthers set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school. A few months later, J. Edgar Hoover publicly states that the Panthers are the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” I find it interesting that a country that was built on resistance, protest, and outright mutiny, takes issue with protests, to this day protesters are criminalized by the media.
In Chicago, the outstanding leader of the Panthers local, Fred Hampton, leads five different breakfast programs on the West Side, helps create a free medical center, and initiates a door to door program of health services which test for sickle cell anemia, and encourage blood drives for the Cook County Hospital. The Chicago party also begins reaching out to local gangs to clean up their acts, get them away from crime and bring them into the class war. The Parties efforts meet wide success, and Hampton’s audiences and organised contingent grow by the day.
On December 4 thanks to an FBI informant, Hampton’s Chicago home was raided and he was murdered in his sleep, shot 4 times with two bullets in his head. Several other Panthers present were also shot and killed, along with Hampton’s wife who was 8 months pregnant, though she and one other Panther were the only survivors. Investigators revealed over 90 bullets were found at the scene, with one coming from a Panthers gun. Following the shooting the Black Panthers were raided and arrested for terrorist acts against police, with not one officer being charged nor serving time for the Panther murders.
In September, Huey Newton is convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 2 to 15 years in prison; by 1970 the conviction is appealed and overturned on procedural errors. In 1969 Seale is indicted in Chicago for protesting during the Democratic national convention of last year. The court refuses to allow Seale to choose a lawyer. As Seale repeatedly stands up during the show trial insisting that he is being denied his constitutional right to counsel, the judge orders him bound and gagged. He is convicted on 16 counts of contempt and sentenced to four years in prison. While in jail he would be charged again for killing a cop in years past, a trial that would end in 1971 with a hung jury.
In March, 1970, Bobby Seale publishes Seize The Time while still being held in prison, the story of the Panthers and Huey Newton. On April 2, 1970, in New York, 21 Panthers are charged with plotting to assassinate police officers and blow up buildings. On May 22nd, Eight members, including Ericka Huggins, are arrested on a variety of conspiracy and murder charges in New Haven, Connecticut. Meanwhile, Chief of staff David Hilliard is on trial for threatening President Richard Nixon. In 1971, the Panther’s newspaper circulation reaches 250,000.
The FBI began forging letters to cause dissension within the movement, writing to Eldrige Cleaver who had been living in exile in Algiers: he was one of the main targets. Their plan worked. Eldridge separated from the Panthers to form his own revolutionary group. He even began speaking against many of the program’s he helped to start.
Bobby Seale resigns from the party; while Elaine Brown takes the lead in continuing the Panther community programs. In the fall of 1975, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver return from exile as born-again Christians. In 1979, all charges against Cleaver are dropped after he bargains with the state and pleads guilty to assault in a 1968 shoot out with the cops. He is put on five years probation. In the dimming years of his life, Cleaver assimilates a political outlook similar to Martin Luther King, engages in various business ventures, and becomes heavily addicted to cocaine.
By the beginning of the 1980s, attacks on the party and internal degradation and divisions, cause the party to fall apart. The leadership of the party had been absolutely smashed; its rank and file constantly terrorized by the police. Many remaining Panthers were hunted down and killed in the following years, imprisoned on trumped charges (Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, among many others), or forced to flee the United States (Assata Shakur, and others).
As Cleaver would later explain in an interview a year before his death: “As it was [the U.S. government] chopped off the head [of the Black liberation movement] and left the body there armed. That’s why all these young bloods are out there now, they’ve got the rhetoric but are without the political direction… and they’ve got the guns.” His statement rings true still today with the numbers of homicides within the black community seemingly never on a decline, but especially in Chicago. (Or at least that is what the media portrays).
The saddest part about their story aside from the murders, lies, and rhetoric from the government, it still happens today. Groups like Black Lives Matter are painted with the same rhetoric and lies! Being deemed racist, when all races and cultures can be and are members of the movement. Telling people they hate police, when in fact they are against police brutality. Just because some are okay with police abuse, does not mean others must sit back and accept it.